The Lament of the Confident
I’m a relatively confident person.
I think it is more about the way I am wired then any sort of astronomical level of ability. I get it from my dad’s side of the family. We tend to be the Jack of All Trades, Master of None sort.
My family tree is filled with the type of people that can walk into any sort of job or task, figure it out relatively quickly, and then begin to make it happen. My grandmother is the queen of, “Who needs a recipe? I can whip up a southern gourmet feast with a can of cream of mushroom soup, some ritz crackers, and a couple pieces of chicken.” One day my dad decided he was into woodworking and built me a huge bunk bed/shelving unit/desk in a couple of weeks.
I saw it manifest itself the other night playing Trivia with a few friends. I just kept getting answers right. I’m still not sure why I knew that the element Hg translated as Mercury. I supposed it was stuck in the recesses of my memory from Chem class long ago. It released itself right at the best possible moment, along with some other useless facts.
Before I knew it, people were looking to me for the answers. I became Trivia-girl in a matter of moments. And, I am ashamed to admit, I liked it.
I have always enjoyed the fact that my internal Jack of All Trades-ness helps me get noticed. True Confession: I like figuring things out, solving issues…....and getting attention.
So it was with a punch to the pride when I read these words from Paul the next morning:
“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. Philippians 3:3
The New Living Translation puts it this way:
“We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort…”
No confidence in the flesh, in human effort. None. Zero.
Paul goes on to list out all the reasons why he of all people has the most reasons to have confidence in his flesh (Philippians 3:4-6). He was the superstar of the Jewish religion. He had the most education with the best teacher. He was even so hardcore, he was killing Christians before his conversion.
However, after meeting Jesus, Paul takes on a radically different perspective. It is beautifully captured in Philippians 3:7-11.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
None leaves zero margin of error. If I’m reading Paul’s words correctly, I can’t simultaneously rely on what Jesus has done on my behalf and also have some confidence in my own abilities, however good they make me feel or how much attention they get me.
Is that even possible? To have NO confidence in my own flesh? To count it ALL as a loss? To consider it trash?
I think unpacking the above words of Paul will help.
First, Paul is not saying all things are trash outright. He’s saying they are trash by comparison. In verse 8, he says “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
It’s as if I was offered a free vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama - beachfront condo, fully stocked kitchen, the works. That would be incredible! I would count down the days to be on the Gulf with my feet in the sand, and the sun on my face.
But what if when I was offered the free vacation, I was offered a choice. All expenses paid to Gulf Shores, Alabama or to exotic Bora Bora. Have you seen those pictures of the huts built over the ocean? It looks AMAZING. I wouldn’t even pause before taking Bora Bora over Alabama. No offense to the Gulf of Mexico, but comparing it to this beautiful island in the Pacific - it seems like rubbish, not even worthy of my mental list of costs and benefits. A literal no-brainer.
To translate the beach analogy to scripture, my first test from Paul is taking the things that give me earthly confidence and putting them right alongside knowing Jesus and seeing they are a total loss by comparison. Whether it is my own abilities, my material possessions, my successes, whatever, I have to call them all pointless. They are worthless compared to who my Savior is and what He has done on my behalf.
It’s an incredibly important yet freeing exercise. Yes, God made me relatively intelligent enough to be good at Trivia - awesome. But compared to Jesus? That’s a blip. It’s a silly moment of fleeting happiness in comparison to an eternity of the selfless love of my Savior.
Consequently, I tend to do this exercise throughout my days, and I encourage you to do it as well. Take the things of life and compare them to Jesus. It makes us more tethered to him and allows us to live more open-handed with who we are and what we have.
There is a second detail here from Paul that aids in putting no confidence in our flesh. Twice (verse 8 and verse 10) he says that he counts all things as loss as compared to knowing Christ Jesus as opposed to just having Christ Jesus.
It may seem like a slight semantic difference, but when you look at the meaning of this word knowing, it gives it a whole new perspective. So, bear with me a bit.
After studying the original Greek, the best way I know how to explain this type of “knowing” is “experiential understanding”. Meaning, I get the sense that this type of knowing only comes by living. That Paul was saying that everything in his life was rubbish compared to really knowing Jesus through his everyday experiences.
I can totally relate to this sentiment from Philippians. I first believed at the point of salvation, and I gained Christ. I “had” him, for lack of a better term. But then I embarked on a journey of knowing Him, understanding His character, how He sees me, and how He’d like me to live.
This type of knowing has deepened and grown as I’ve chosen to take my life and experienced it through the filter of God’s Word. And the more I know Jesus, the easier it is for me to see everything as a loss by comparison.
So, dear friends, having Jesus is always enough, but if I’m not working to know Him better and better, then I will always be torn between Him and this material world that battles for my affections every day.
It is the knowing Him through my days that makes all the difference. The more I know Him, the easier and easier it is to turn my back on what this world has to offer me by comparison. To count it all what it is - trash.
For me it is comfortable to rely on myself, my successes at work, my family and friends, my home, and all it holds. It’s comfortable but also fleeting. My confidence in myself can feel as solid as steel one moment and then slips through my fingers like that sand on the beaches of the Gulf.
Honestly, I get tired of the fleeting. The unreliability of my own flesh is exhausting in a way. That’s why trading my perspective to that of Paul’s has been an exercise in freedom.
Knowing Jesus through the moments of my day creates a solid dependability that is everlasting. It isn’t about me. My flesh. My human efforts. All that is transient.
My confidence instead is placed solidly on my Creator. The One who has numbered every hair on my head, collected and kept track of my sorrows, who made a way for me to know Him eternally, who marked me with a seal and an inheritance, and who is continually advocating on my behalf.
And that is a much better placement by far.
Amy Bufkin has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember. Even though she basically lived at her local church growing up, her faith and relationship with The Lord was incredibly shallow until her early twenties. It was then Amy learned how to study her Bible, began to truly commune with God, and her shallow faith began to deepen as she got to know her Lord and Savior. Now her passion is to communicate the same truths that changed her life to young women in as many ways as possible. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook